Jones introduces bill to prohibit clergy members from taking advantage of vulnerable parishioners

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — Clergy would be added as a position of power to the state’s criminal sexual conduct law under legislation introduced by Sen. Rick Jones.

“We cannot allow any clergy members to take advantage of the vulnerable persons they are counseling,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “Many times pastors act as counselors in the same way mental health counselors, doctors and psychologists do. They should come under the same laws and not be able to sexually assault a parishioner.”

Jones said the legislation is in response to a recent case of a young woman being sexually assaulted by her pastor while he was performing a “religious” anointing ceremony.

Senate Bill 607 would prohibit a member of the clergy from sexual contact or sexual penetration of a person who has sought religious or spiritual advice, aid or comfort. Under the proposed legislation, a violation would be entered as a charge of third- or fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Sexual penetration is third-degree criminal sexual conduct and is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Sexual contact is fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct and is punishable by up to two years in prison, a fine of up to $500, or both.

SB 607 has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration.